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Conference this week on “Education in Black and White”

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

A series of events and panel discussions on the history of African Americans and schooling in Philadelphia are taking place this month, including a conference this Thursday through Saturday On "The Institute for Colored Youth and the Ongoing Struggle for Education."

The ICY, founded in Philadelphia in 1837, is now Cheyney University.

"Education in Black and White" is billed as a "citywide festival" and is part of the "hidden history" project of the Moonstone Arts Center, an arts education organization with a focus on the history of the African American community in Philadelphia.

Events will be held at Local 1199C of the Hospital Workers Union; the Writing Project at the University of Pennsylvania, the African American History Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and branches of the Free Library.

Partners also include the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (which still exists), WURD, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

On Thursday, a panel on the founding of the Institute for Colored Youth will feature local writers Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin, who wrote Tasting Freedom: Octavius V. Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America. Catto was one of the early graduates of ICY who was a key civil rights leader fighting for African American voting rights and was murdered at age 32.

History professors Judith Giesberg, Linda M. Perkins, and Kabria Bumgartner will discuss the women of the ICY, including Fannie Jackson Coppin and Charlotte Forten. Coppin, the institute’s third principal, from 1869 to 1906, turned ICY into a "community school," abolishing tuition so it would be accessible to poor children.

Friday’s activities include discussions of "Black Teachers for Black Students," and "The Teacher as Activist." A Friday evening event will honor Haki and Safisha Madhubuti (also known as Don and Carol Lee), publisher and educator.

On Saturday morning there will be a professional development workshop for middle and high school teachers. (The first 25 teachers who register with Amy Cohen at will receive a free copy of Tasting Freedom and the teacher’s resource Envisioning Freedom.) In the afternoon will be a discussion of "What We Teach and How We Teach It" with prominent local educators, and a panel that looks at Cheyney and other historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) today.

Events connected to the festival continue to the end of the month. On Oct. 27 at 1:30 p.m., there will be a film and discussion program at the National Museum of American Jewish History at 5th and Market Streets called "From Swastika to Jim Crow." The film is on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who taught at Black colleges after being confronted with anti-Semitism at major universities. And on Oct 31 at 3:15 p.m., several short films will be shown about major figures in Philadelphia African American history.

More information is available at or 215-735-9600.

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